The Magic Of “No”

When I work with my organizing clients, we often discuss how items have come to be acquired. Some acquisitions were wisely planned purchases, while others were picked up on impulse. Some are gifts given out of love, while others were given out of a sense of obligation. Still other things were abandoned on our metaphorical doorsteps (or, in the case of grown children who have flown the next, things were abandoned in our basements, attics, closets, cupboards and any available corner).

While some of these tangible items in our midst contribute to our daily joy, let’s be honest-many more just clutter our homes and offices. In my professional organizing practice, my clients usually call me because they are worried about those tangible items cluttering up their space, and they want to learn how to let go of the stuff crowding them out of their own homes and offices. But it’s an equally important organizational skill to evaluate how activities we acquire can clutter our hours and our days.

As with the tangible examples above, we chose some activities with enthusiasm, while others were pressed upon us – we’ve all been guilted into obligatory participation. Some tasks and roles, like being a coach of one’s child’s sports team, may be emotionally fulfilling. Others, however, drain our energy because we resent the time they take away from our true priorities.

With organizing tangible items, there is always some heavy lifting involved, some minimally muscle-bound effort to reduce the clutter and send it on its way. But there is a magic word you can utter, without even needing to click your heels or wave a wand, that can banish unwanted activities, tasks and obligations from our schedules. The magic word is:

Anyone who has groggily made cupcakes for a PTA fundraiser at 2 a.m. or has devoted an entire sunny weekend to overseeing another staffer’s presentation has NOT learned the magic of the word “No”. With a little practice, you will see huge results, sweeping your schedule free of burdensome tasks that have weighed down your spirit.

Some people fear that saying “No” makes them sound unduly negative, not just in terms of wording, but in terms of their attitudes. Don’t worry- “No” is so magical that it can cloak itself in positive-sounding phrases to help shield you from obligations while showing in the most responsible, agreeable light. Practice saying any of the following variations on “No”:

  • “Thank you for thinking of me, but I have too many obligations right now. I wouldn’t want to risk not giving this important project the attention it deserves.”
  • “I’m sure you’ll do a great job on your own, but here’s some advice on how I accomplished it the last (seven) time(s) I (was) volunteered.”
  • “I’m really not the most qualified person for the task, but let me tell you who would be perfect for this…”
  • “I would rather decline now than risk doing a mediocre or rushed job.”
  • “I’ve decided to focus more on my career right now. Maybe next season.”
  • “I’ve promised my children/spouse that I won’t take on any more activities that keep me away from the family. I’m sure you understand.”

In each case, you’ve said “No” without actually verbalizing the word. That’s just more proof of the magic inherent in “No”!

When you judiciously work towards saying “No” to adding yet another undesirable obligation to your schedule, you are actually saying “YES” to your priorities, to quality time with your family, to your health and to your dreams.

Say “Yes” to saying “No”!

Copyright © 2005 Julie Bestry and Best Results Organizing. All rights reserved.


About the Author:   Julie Bestry is a professional organizer, speaker and author, who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. Her most recent book is 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit Best Results Organizing at

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